Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-10-16
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Gender-Bending The Bard with The Shrews Present 'Untameable'
by Sean Margaret Wagner

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The Shrews Improvisation collective has come a long way since its initial run, which was spearheaded by founders Lindsay Gonzales and Claudia Alpert.

They shoved furniture aside, and performed to audiences packed in Gonzales' living room in 2018. Their idea of an inclusive ensemble composed of female, trans or non-binary members drew members like Caitlin Robb to take part. "I went to see a show with the Improvised Shakespeare Company at the iO Theater and really wanted to audition, but at the time, women weren't considered, so I was really excited when The Shrews came together on social media," said Robb.

The troupe's original founders have left the ensemble in the capable hands of a solid core of members who fundraise, host readings and are now producing its second show on a Second City stage, entitled Untameable. Lizzie Cross—a performer since the initial living-room run—also acts as the group's producer and treasurer. "This ensemble is so supportive, we make each other funnier," Cross told Windy City Times. "It's hard to put into words why this one of the most special things I do with my time and energy, but it is."

The interesting thing about a Shrews team rehearsal is that it can take on many forms depending on who leads it. They've studied the histories of Norman-era European monarchs and beyond, with Shrews ensemble member Julia Williams teaching. "We didn't rehearse at all last week, it was just a giant history lesson that I led. I was terrified that it was going to be dry, and it wasn't going to go well, but it gave us a dozen sketch ideas," said Williams. They've also gone over the use of songs in Shakespeare plays with member Erin Caswell, and a crash course in verb conjugation with member Karolyn Blake, an expert on determining the 'doth' most appropriate for your subject and tense.

Ensemble members run rehearsals, direct scenes and lead their fellow improvisors in exercises over a rehearsal period that spans months to accommodate as many performers as possible. "The Shrews takes all of the disparate parts of of my theater career and combines them into one project, with a group of people who are extremely dedicated to inclusion in the arts," said ensemble member Jessica Landis. Member Chrissy McGonagle brings her expertise in character development to help the ensemble create dozens of personalities, telling Windy City Times, "I focus a lot on character work. I love this idea that you can actually create these characters on your own, at home, and bring them into an improv scene."

Newer member Erin Caswell loves the challenge of playing to a rowdier, improv audience. "I always enjoy bringing Shakespeare to populations who think it's intimidating or fancy, because in Shakespeare's day, the commoners came too. Mostly to stand around and make fun of the actors. There was no shortage of crude jokes or sex jokes," said Caswell.

Once there's a trove of character names, intentions, phrases and professions to draw from, according to longtime ensemble member Grace Snider, "Shakespeare is approachable. We are a blended, inclusive group of members that are female and non-binary, and we want people from all walks of life to feel comfortable with us." Snider credited the leaders of the ensemble for being supportive of all who join and allowing everyone a stake in ownership.

By nature of inviting everyone outside of cisgender men to the table, scenes and character work turn the idea of the historic all-male Shakespeare cast on its ear. It gives performers a chance to break out of their usual type, and gives room for more queer viewpoints, more feminist viewpoints, and more activist viewpoints to color their storylines. The work isn't just smart, it's actively trying to reverse misogyny, dismissiveness, and problematic plots in Shakespeare's source material.

The inclusiveness doesn't stop at the ensemble, either. Core members put charitable donations to work to begin outreach to the differently abled community and provide sign-language interpretation for a number of shows in the upcoming run. There are plans to bring child-care options to future productions, and it was just announced that The Shrews will be bringing its productions to the open-air setting of Chicago public parks this summer.

"I hope our audiences have a good time, and I hope they open their minds to what a hero or a villain can look like, or what the capabilities of performers could be," Landis said. "I hope we plant a seed that it is okay to have a non-traditional ingenue, or maybe a goofy sidekick that is incredibly attractive." Williams added, "I want people to walk away excited to come back to see our next show. I want them to see that women and non-binary people can also play in Shakespearean settings. Anyone can."

The Shrews Present Untameable runs Thursdays through April 25, at 8:30 p.m., at the Blackout Cabaret at Piper's Alley, 230 W. North Ave., second floor. For tickets and more information, visit .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Cirque du Soleil names cast for holiday production at Chicago Theatre 2019-10-17 - Chicago, IL ( October 16, 2019 ) — Cirque du Soleil and The Madison Square Garden Company ( NYSE: MSG ) announced today ...

Gay News

Firebrand Theatre to present Always… Patsy Cline 2019-10-17 - By Ted Swindley Directed by Brigitte Ditmars. Musical Direction by Andra Velis Simon. November 16 — December 15, 2019 at The Den Theatre ...

Gay News

Trans bodybuilding film out Nov. 7 2019-10-17 - The award-winning, trans-bodybuilding documentary Man Made releases worldwide on VOD platforms on Thursday, Nov. 7, via Journeyman Pictures. The movie follows the lives ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Back in the Day 2019-10-16 - Playwright: Miranda Gonzalez At: UrbanTheater Company, 2620 W. Division St. Tickets: $15-30; Runs through: Nov. 2 Immersive theater is tough ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Invisible 2019-10-16 - Playwright: Mary Bonnett At: Her Story Theatre at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets:, 773-327-5252; $35. Runs through: Nov. 3 ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Sundown, Yellow Moon 2019-10-16 - Playwright: Rachel Bonds; songs by The Bengsons At: Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Tickets: 773-338-2177;; $43-$46. Runs through: Nov. 17 ...

Gay News

CRITICS'PICKS 2019-10-16 - Be Here Now, Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, through Oct. 19. By rejecting romcom clichés, Deborah Zoe Laufer's mostly comedy leads to ...

Gay News

THEATER SPOTLIGHT Arts in the Dark 2019-10-16 - Do you love a parade? And Halloween? Kick off the spooky season with Arts in the Dark, a one-night-only magical parade of bands, ...

Gay News

'Destinos' festival offers something for everyone 2019-10-16 - The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance ( CLATA )—a non-profit 501( c )( 3 ) organization formed in 2016 by the three most prominent ...

Gay News

Lesbian author/advocate Julie Justicz writes on 'Difficulty' 2019-10-16 - Chicago attorney/social justice advocate Julie Justicz has a history of fostering an affinity for the written word. Her first novel, Degrees of Difficulty, ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.